Slike strani
PDF
ePub

A member of the Senate must be thirty years of age at least, and be possessed of £800 or its value in property. Each senator is nominated for life by the GovernorGeneral.

The number of the original Senate was seventy-two, and now it is eighty-one. The House of Commons, whose members are styled “M.P.,” is to be elected by voters, qualified according to the franchise in each province. It numbered 181 when it first met on the 6th of November, 1867. It was the expressed intention to have the Lower house always double the strength of the Upper house, so that in the case of a joint sitting there might be no “deadlock,” but that the Lower house might preponderate. This provision is followed in both the Dominion of Canada and the Commonwealth of Australia.

Now, however, that the Canadian House of Commons, by the union of every part of British North America, except Newfoundland, amounts to 213 members (the Senate remaining eighty-one), its preponderance is not only assured, but rather excessive.

The allocation of members to each province is readjusted after each decennial census, beginning with that of 1871. But the curious provision is made that Quebec province shall always have the fixed number of sixty-five members, and that at each re-adjustment, such a number of members shall be assigned to each of the other provinces as shall bear the same proportion to its population as the number sixty-five bears to the population of Quebec. The object of this law is to prevent the House of Commons from becoming a cumbrous, unwieldy body, from the constant growth of population. Each member of both Senate and House of Commons is paid £200 for a session of thirty days, with travelling expenses,* etc.

* Payment of members is the rule in all our free self-governing colonies.

The House of Commons, in session, elects its Speaker, who has no vote, except in the case of a tie,” when he may give a casting vote. The Speaker of the Senate, nominated by the Governor-General, may vote on any question, but in case of equality of the voices, has no casting vote, but must give the decision in the negative.

The House of Commons alone can originate money votes, or impose taxation, but with this difference from our own House of Commons, that every such bill must be introduced by a message from the Governor-General approving of it.

The Executive Government of the Dominion consists of the Governor-General, assisted by the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, out of which thirteen Cabinet Ministers are selected to preside over the thirteen departments of state.

The Governor-General nominates these ministers from the party in majority of the House of Commons, and they are responsible to Parliament.

Each Province constituting the Dominion is provided by this Act with a local Government of a nearly uniform type, consisting of a Lieutenant-Governor, Executive Council, and Legislature. The Provincial law's passed after the year 1867 must be consistent with the Dominion laws, or be, quoad differentia, disallowed.

To save time and space, I may state in general terms that, while the Federal Government controls all matters essential to the general development, permanency, unity, and defence of the whole Dominion, the Provincial Governments retain the management and improvement of all local affairs.

The framers of this Dominion of Canada Act have wisely avoided one defect of the United States Constitution, namely, the undefined relationship of State rights to Federal powers.

Whereas by Art. 10 of the U. S. Constitution all powers not expressly conferred upon the President, Executive and Congress are reserved to the individual states--hence the plea of the Confederates for the maintenance of slavery-in the Dominion Constitution the reverse obtains, the rights and powers of the Provincial Governments being distinctly specified, while those of the Federal Executive and Parliament cover the whole ground of legislation not so expressly reserved to the Provincial authorities.

The Supreme Court of Canada, established in 1875, consisting of a Chief justice and five puisne judges, is the Court of Appeal for all controversies between Provinces and the Dominion. But though its decision in all criminal cases is final, in civil and political cases a final appeal is allowed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of England. During the past thirty-three years very few appeals have been carried up to the Privy Council, but I venture to mention one decision by that august body of special interest to temperance reformers.

In the year 1877, the legislature of Ontario, formerly Upper Canada, passed a Liquor License Act of moderate stringency. A Mr. Hodge, of Toronto, was fined for infringing a certain regulation made by the local Licensing Commissioners, and appealed to the Court of Queen's Bench, who quashed the conviction. Next, the Court of Appeal for Ontario reversed this decision, and affirmed the conviction. Finally, the appellant, Hodge, carried the case to the Privy Council, basing his appeal on the ground (1) that the Legislature of Ontario had no power to pass any act to regulate the liquor traffic, because it infringed Sec. 91 of the B. N. A. Act, which exclusively reserved to the Dominion Parliament “the regulation of trade and commerce"; and (2), that the subject of this Provincial

[ocr errors]

taken it up

Act did not come within any of the classes of subjects assigned by Sec. 92. Their lordships dismissed the appeal, confirming the conviction, holding that the Ontario Parliament acted within its powers in making municipal regulations of a local character for the good government of taverns, etc., licensed for the sale of liquors, etc., and for the repression of drunkenness and disorderly conduct.

The Dominion Parliament also passed the Canada Temperance Act of 1878, to promote uniform legislation on the liquor traffic in all the provinces; and made its adoption voluntary by any county or town. It is now a law for the whole Dominion, of a “ Prohibition” character, but only in action in the localities or districts which have

. The working out of this great scheme for the past thirty-three years has been continuously harmonious, except for the rebellion at the Red River, headed by Louis Riel, in 1870, and the outbreak of the Indians and French half-breeds, under the same rebel, in the North West territory, in 1885. The completion of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, in 1886, the construction of which was made an absolute condition by British Columbia of her union with the Dominion, has vastly accelerated the unification of Canada. Every province and territory as it joins the Dominion is provided with a suitable government, and representatives in the Federal Parliament. Even the wild Yukon district is now orderly, under Commissioner Ogilvie and his Mounted Police. Immigration increases, and new mineral discoveries are being made all the time. Like the mother country, Canada opens her arms to the distressed and oppressed of every nation. The Finns, the Icelanders, the Dukhobors, the Stundists, and the Roumanian Jews find there a welcome and a home. Well-deserved indeed was the eulogium pronounced upon the Dominion by the Marquis of Lorne, in his farewell speech, in May, 1883 :-"A judicature above suspicion ; self-governing communities entrusting to a strong central government all national interests; the toleration of all faiths, with favour to none; a franchise recognising the rights of labour by the exclusion only of the idler; the maintenance of a government not privileged to exist for any fixed term, but ever susceptible to the change of public opinion, and ever open, through a responsible ministry, to the scrutiny of the people ;—these are the features of your rising power.”

And now let me describe, as concisely as may be, the origin of the Federation movement in the great islandcontinent of Australia, every one of whose six colonies has acquired the boon of responsible government since the year 1856, when the first Australian Parliament met in Sydney, elected for New South Wales, called the “Mother Colony." About the year 1884 leading Australian statesmen, stimulated by the rapid growth, solidarity, and prominence in the empire of a United Canada, took up the question of Australian Union. Mr. W. B. Dalley, who got up the New South Welsh contingent of troops for the Soudan, and Sir Henry Parkes headed the movement, and in 1886 the first Federal Council for Australasia met at Hobart, Tasmania, five colonies only being represented. Mutual jealousies being gradually smoothed away by press articles and public speeches, the next two conferences, in 1890 and 1895, were more complete and satisfactory. Finally, a great Australasian Federal Convention drew up a complete Draft Constitution in 1898 for submission to a plébiscite in each colony. Every colony has had every possible opportunity of understanding, sifting, amending, accepting or rejecting this

« PrejšnjaNaprej »